Valley News – Dresden district absorbs Hannover sixth graders to ease budget uncertainty
HANOVER — After years of effort, school officials in Hanover have changed the way they count the city’s sixth-graders.
The school boards of Hanover and Dresden on Wednesday evening ratified a deal that voters in both districts approved at the March municipal assembly, which will turn Hanover sixth-graders into Dresden students.
For decades, the Hannover School District paid tuition to the Dresden School District to send the city’s sixth graders to Richmond Middle School, which is part of the Dresden system.
This arrangement has made both districts susceptible to the volatility of large swings in enrollment. If the number of sixth-graders in Hanover increased significantly, the district’s tuition bill would rise and bloat the district’s budget. If the number dropped significantly the following year, the Dresden School District would experience a significant drop in revenue.
While it may seem like a hassle of which jacket pocket to pay the bill from, school officials argued that the tuition arrangement made it difficult for the two districts to budget accurately and make financial plans.
“They’ve looked at this many times over the past 20 years,” SAU 70 chief financial officer Jamie Teague said Wednesday.
New Hampshire schools must set budgets nine months before the start of the school year, Teague said, and a big change in tuition enrollment at the start of the school year can wreak havoc.
“It creates these ebbs and flows, so that in any given year the district of Dresden or Hanover is in trouble,” Teague said.
This is true for other districts that rely on tuition agreements. Earlier this year, school officials in Hartland, Weathersfield and Sharon, which pay tuition for high school (and middle school, in Sharon’s case), faced major tuition increases. .
In Sharon and Weathersfield, officials cut elementary school programs to cover high school tuition, which is non-negotiable.
The tuition rate Hannover pays Dresden has more than doubled since 2002-03, from $10,096 per student to $22,243 per student for the upcoming school year. But tuition volatility was the top concern for school officials.
For example, during the biggest tuition swing, Hannover saw its tuition bill increase by $935,000 between the 2019-20 school year and the 2020-21 school year. The previous year, Hannover planned for 61 sixth graders, but 76 enrolled this fall. Since this cost was under budget, it was applied to the following year, so in budgeting Hannover added $312,000 to its tuition bill for 2020-21.
That year, 91 sixth graders from Hanover enrolled at Richmond Middle School, 50% more than Hanover had budgeted the previous year.
The new arrangement that voters in Hanover and Dresden approved in March made sixth-grade students in Hanover part of the Dresden district and would also allow Norwich to do the same with its sixth-grade. Norwich school officials opted to keep the city’s sixth-grade pupils at Marion Cross School, Norwich’s K-6 school.
Under the new arrangement, Dresden will only budget Hanover sixth-grade students as they would any other student at Richmond Middle School and Hanover High School, the two schools in the Interstate District, which oversee the secondary education in Hanover and Norwich.
A report produced by the Sixth Grade Tuition Working Group, which has studied the matter, shows that in six of the past nine years the annual cost increase would have been lower under the new structure, a sign that volatility will be higher weak.
Aside from funding, little changes to the Hannover-Dresden arrangement when it comes into effect in the 2022-23 school year. Hanover’s sixth graders will go to Richmond Middle School, as they have for a long time.
Alex Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3207.